Strategic Advisers for Small Business Support

In a significant expansion of its mentorship and business support efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation announced that Tulane students could apply to serve as strategic advisers to small businesses in the Greater New Orleans area. 

Made possible through a special gift from Albert Lepage, this expanded initiative provided paid positions to full-time undergraduate and graduate students working directly with local entrepreneurs during the summer of 2020. This opportunity was made available to recent graduates who had job offers delayed or rescinded or who had otherwise been adversely affected by the current job market.

Strategic advisers were be assigned to work at businesses for up to 10 weeks providing immediate support based on each business's specific needs. This highly qualified group of students worked virtually on a full-time basis.

The Lepage Center identified companies from among those that responded to the Greater New Orleans Startup Report as well as those recommended by the City of New Orleans, Greater New Orleans, Inc., the New Orleans Business Alliance and over 20 other partners currently referring businesses to the Lepage Center for mentorship. After evaluating the businesses' pressing needs, students were matched based on how their backgrounds, education and skills can best assist the companies. 

The 2020 Lepage Strategic Advisers and their companies were as follows:

Ryan Baker (BSM ’20)
Paired with Brass Roots, a healthy snacks brand.

Cameron Gordon (SLA ’20)
Paired with Welcome to College, an ambassador management software and consulting service for higher education admission offices, and Performance First Digital, a digital media strategy and placement company.

Gabi Marcus (BSM ’20)
Paired with InnoGenomics Technologies, a biotechnology research and development company with a focus on genetic testing solutions.

Spencer Olesky (SLA ’20)
Paired with Obatala Sciences, a biotechnology toolkit company that provides products and services to researchers developing new treatments for diabetes, obesity, and various types of cancer.

Sean Tillery (MBA ’21)
Paired with SampleChain, a fraud detection software for the market research industry.

Josh D’Arcangelo (MBA ’21)
Paired with Upriver Solutions, a training, placement and business solutions provider, and Rhodes Family of Businesses, a seller of funeral plans and final expense policies to cover expenses for celebrations of life, burial and cremation.

Christopher Flowers (MBA ’21)
Paired with NOLA Brewing, a producer of craft beers, non-alcoholic sparkling hop’d teas, and now hand sanitizer.

Joshua Lacoste (BSM ’20)
Paired with Bacchanal, a hospitality company with two restaurants and catering company.

Ashley Stuart (SSE ’20, ‘21)
Paired with Fluence Analytics, a producer of real-time measurement tools for polymer reactors.

Hunter Mathas (BSM ’21)
Paired with Launch Pad, a national coworking platform with a focus on having an impact on entrepreneurial ecosystems across the United States.

 

Background

After Hurricane Katrina, teams of business school students traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild businesses. These students would work with a business over the course of a week, or in some cases a weekend, on a strategic business challenge that the business owner was unable to address on their own.  This program was called IDEAcorps, and it was a precursor to the conference that was built around it that became known as New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.
As the Times-Picayune reported at the time:

"When classes resumed at Tulane University in January, professor John Elstrott taught a "Rebuild New Orleans" course that offered business owners the talent and support of his MBA students, 90 percent of whom returned for the spring semester."

"IDEAcorps volunteers, like the students in Elstrott's "Rebuild New Orleans" course, will provide hands-on assistance to local businesses. Students could take on tasks such as market feasibility studies, sales forecasting, new product analysis and technical audits."

"We felt it was up to us to engage them in understanding what happened and in the recovery," Elstrott said. "Why should this effort end with the class?"

This program continues to present day (it is now operated by Loyola University during NOEW, which is co-hosted by the A. B. Freeman School).  The IDEAcorps experience demonstrates just how significant a role that Tulane and the Freeman School played in the recovery of New Orleans after Katrina.  But it also provides a model for how a great university can support our city’s small business and startup community. The Freeman School and the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are once again in a position to offer leadership and critical resources during this time of COVID-19.